Indexed on: 01 Mar '94Published on: 01 Mar '94Published in: Archives of Virology
The variability of the hepatitis C virus genome was investigated in a group of German patients who developed chronic hepatitis C after parenteral administration of contaminated immunoglobulin to prevent Rh sensitization after pregnancy. The nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequence alterations of the E1 and the first hypervariable region of the E2 gene of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome from sera of two randomly selected patients were studied by comparison of HCV sequences obtained from the original inoculum (anti Rh immunoglobulin) and from patient sera collected in 1979 and 1989. All isolates were classified as subtype 1b but showed nucleotide insertions of up to 12 nucleotides at the cleavage site of E1/E2. Microheterogeneity of HCV genomes was found in the immunoglobulin supporting the quasispecies model of HCV distribution. Remarkable nucleotide exchanges over the 10 year period in the E1 region (0.9−5.2×10−3 base substitutions per genome site per year) and especially in the first hypervariable region of the E2 gene (about 1.5×10−2) occurred. The HCV genome undergoes a selection of variants, though it is not known if this derives from mutation or selection of pre-existing rare variants.